Syrian refugees wait at a clinic in 2016 at a camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq. Many Syrian refugees are frustrated over President Donald Trump’s executive action banning their entry to the U.S. until further notice. CNS photo/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA

Promised safe haven in America, refugees now grounded by Trump

By  Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service
  • February 5, 2017

AMMAN, Jordan – Promised resettlement in the United States after escaping death and destruction in their homeland, many Syrian refugees are frustrated and angry over President Donald Trump’s executive action banning their entry to the U.S. until further notice.

“We’re frustrated. We were told that we were accepted for resettlement in the U.S., and now everything is at a standstill,” a Syrian refugee woman told Catholic News Service, wiping away tears as she surveyed her crumbling home in the Jordanian capital.

“Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the International Organization for Migration have responded to our repeated telephone calls about our status or what to expect in the future,” said the mother of four young children, whose family fled to Jordan in 2013 after their home was bombed. Rahma provided only her first name for fear of reprisal.

“If there is no longer any chance of being resettled in the U.S., then we would like to know whether we can apply somewhere else which will welcome us,” she said.

Refugee Abdel Hakim, a pharmacist from the southern Syrian town of Daraa, cannot contain his anger at seeing his dreams of starting a new life in the United States dashed. He and his family were far along in the approval process and expected to travel shortly from Jordan to the U.S. He called the measure “discriminatory and racist.”

“In the beginning, we didn’t want to leave Syria. But as it’s been plunged deeper in war, we now find even the door to America has been slammed shut in our faces,” he said.

Trump’s Jan. 27 presidential action ended indefinitely the entry of Syrian refugees to the U.S., pending a security review. As well, it suspended the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days.

The action also slapped a 90-day ban on all entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries with terrorism concerns, including Syria. While Jordan is not on that list, the Middle East kingdom hosts more than 1.5 million refugees who have fled conflicts in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

“These dramatic and discriminatory policies will only harm, not help, U.S. interests and our national security,” Jesuit Refugee Service-USA said in a statement criticizing the decision.

For the past 15 years, as waves of refugees fleeing the 2003 Gulf war, the Syrian civil war and those persecuted by Islamic State militants have flooded Jordan in search of a safe haven, Catholic and other churches have provided food, clothing, heating and other items, regardless of the refugees’ religious background. International faith-based aid groups have been at the forefront of efforts helping refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq, but also those who fled the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Resource-poor Jordan has struggled to provide water and electricity, education and health services to hundreds of thousands of refugees as the grinding conflicts in their homelands show little sign of ending. Many Syrian refugees accepted for U.S. resettlement have arrived from Jordan.

More than 27,000 Syrian refugees from 11 Middle Eastern host countries were under consideration for resettlement to the U.S. and in various stages of the approval process at the time of Trump’s action, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Quickly, the measure sparked mass protests at U.S. airports and other venues, where people demanded its repeal. Angry demonstrators criticized the ban as completely contrary to America's ideals and its storied history of accepting immigrants fleeing persecution in search of a better life.

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